Pregnancy rhesus disease errors too common.


Some pregnant women are being denied a routine treatment to protect their unborn child, say investigators.

A simple injection can prevent a life-threatening condition known as rhesus disease, which occurs if the mother and her baby have incompatible blood groups.

All pregnant women should be screened and any found to have rhesus-negative blood should be offered the anti-D jab.

A UK-wide audit of NHS hospitals shows this is not happening.

Avoidable errors

Over a period of 15 years from 1996 to 2011 there were 1,211 errors where women who should have received immediate treatment with the anti-D injection did not.

Rhesus disease

  • Also known as haemolytic disease of the foetus and newborn (HDFN)
  • Happens when the mother has rhesus-negative blood (RhD-negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD-positive)
  • Because these two blood groups are incompatible, the mother’s immune system sees the baby as “alien” and switches to “destroy” mode
  • Women who are RhD-negative should receive the anti-D jab to stop them making antibodies that could attack the baby
  • All pregnant women should be screened to check if they are RhD-negative

In half of these cases, the woman either did not receive the treatment at all or received it late – mostly because the nurse, midwife or doctor on duty at the time failed to follow basic protocols.

Laboratory errors accounted for just over a quarter of the cases.

In a fifth of cases, the anti-D was given entirely inappropriately – either mistakenly to the wrong mother or to a woman who did not need it.

In nine cases, babies suffered the full-blown effects of the disease. One died and three needed blood transfusions.

The study authors from the University of Manchester are concerned that anti-D errors are still too common despite clear treatment guidelines.

Lead researcher Dr Paula Bolton-Maggs said: “Our findings show that over the 15 year reporting period the same mistakes were being made repeatedly by clinical and laboratory staff.

“These are clinically significant problems that require active attention at a national and local level as reported errors could be avoided by putting in place appropriate checks.”

Louise Silverton, of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: “We welcome this audit report.

“The RCM expects each maternity unit to have systems in place to ensure that all women requiring the anti-D prophylaxis injection receive it regardless of their length of postnatal stay, especially where they live outside the unit’s catchment area.

“This is especially important given the increase in births and pressure on maternity services.

“We need more midwives and more midwifery visits in the community so they can administer anti-D at home under the agreed time limits and spend time with women after they have given birth.”



Quitting smoking ‘cuts heart risk despite weight gain’.


Stopping smoking cuts the risk of heart disease even if it leads to significant weight gain, a US study says.

Researchers writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association say the prospect of weight gain makes some smokers reluctant to stop.

But they say quitting has a “positive effect on cardiovascular risk“.

The health gains from giving up were most marked in people who did not have diabetes, but people with the condition were still said to have benefited.

 “Start Quote

If you’re keen to quit smoking but worried about putting on weight, using smoking cessation aids such as inhalators, gum, or lozenges may help you resist the temptation to reach for comfort food in the place of a cigarette”

Doireann Maddock of the British Heart Association

Obesity is a risk factor in heart disease, leading past research to examine whether weight gain might cancel out some of the benefits of quitting smoking.

Studies suggest people who stop smoking gain on average 6-13lb (2.7-5.9kg) over the first six months.

The JAMA research looked at the smoking habits and heart health of more than 3,000 people between 1981 and 2011.

Former smokers who had stayed away from tobacco for more than four years had a 54% lower risk of heart and artery disease than smokers.

Recent quitters who had stopped smoking for up to four years experienced almost the same benefit with a 53% lower relative risk.

This was despite recent quitters typically gaining 5-10lb over a period of four years, and long-term quitters 1-2lb.

Dr James Meigs, one of the authors of the study at Harvard Medical School, said: “We can now say without question that stopping smoking has a very positive effect on cardiovascular risk for patients with and without diabetes, even if they experience moderate weight gain.”

Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation said weight gain should not deter smokers from quitting.

“If you’re keen to quit smoking but worried about putting on weight, using smoking cessation aids such as inhalators, gum, or lozenges may help you resist the temptation to reach for comfort food in the place of a cigarette.”




European men lag behind in life expectancy.


European men are lagging behind women in terms of life expectancy, a major new report reveals.

Although people are living longer than ever before, men have seen less improvement and are “a generation behind” women, say the authors.

The World Health Organization team who looked at data for nearly nine million people in 53 countries.

It says men have not yet reached the average rise in years of life that women enjoyed back in 1980.

The gap between the sexes is 7.5 years.

As of 2010, women in Europe can expect to live for an average of 80 years, while men reach an average of 72.5 years.

 “Start Quote

Although the survival gap between men and women has always been present it does not have to be so wide”

Prof Alan WhiteChairman of the Men’s Health Forum

The researchers say that lifestyle and occupational differences “largely explain this gap”.

The European Health Report also reveals big inequalities in average life expectancy between different countries. And these differences are greatest in men.

The gap between the best and worst countries for male life expectancy is 17 years. For women it is 12.

Countries with the widest male-female difference in survival included Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Those with the smallest were Iceland, Israel, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

In the UK, the average life expectancy in 2010 was 80 years – 82.5 years for females and 78.5 for males.

The leading health risk factors for Europeans today include tobacco and harmful alcohol use. Cardiovascular disease remains the biggest killer, followed by cancer.

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s regional director for Europe, said: “There are persistent and widespread inequities in health across the region, which in some cases are worsening.

“These are unnecessary and unjust and must be a priority for us to address collectively.”

Prof Alan White, chairman of the Men’s Health Forum and professor of men’s health at Leeds Metropolitan University, said: “Men are not programmed to die young.

“Although the survival gap between men and women has always been present it does not have to be so wide.”


You Are Stardust: Teaching Kids About the Universe in Stunning Illustrated Dioramas.

youarestardust1 youarestardust2 youarestardust3 youarestardust4 youarestardust5

“Every tiny atom in your body came from a star that exploded long before you were born.”

“Everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was … lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,”Carl Sagan famously marveled in his poeticPale Blue Dot monologue, titled after the iconic 1990 photograph of Earth. The stardust metaphor for our interconnection with the cosmos soon permeated popular culture and became a vehicle for the allure of space exploration. There’s something at once incredibly empowering and incredibly humbling in knowing that the flame in your fireplace came from the sun.

That’s precisely the kind of cosmic awe environmental writer Elin Kelsey and Toronto-based Korean artist Soyeon Kim seek to inspire in kids in You Are Stardust (public library) — an exquisite picture-book that instills that profound sense of connection with the natural world. Underpinning the narrative is a bold sense of optimism — a refreshing antidote to the fear-appeal strategy plaguing most environmental messages today.

Kim’s breathtaking dioramas, to which this screen does absolutely no justice, mix tactile physical materials with fine drawing techniques and digital compositing to illuminate the relentlessly wondrous realities of our intertwined existence: The water in your sink once quenched the thirst of dinosaurs; with every sneeze, wind blasts out of your nose faster than a cheetah’s sprint; the electricity that powers every thought in your brain is stronger than lightning.

But rather than dry science trivia, the message is carried on the wings of poetic admiration for these intricate relationships:

Be still. Listen.

Like you, the Earth breathes.

Your breath is alive with the promise of flowers.

Each time you blow a kiss to the world, you spread pollen that might grow to be a new plant.

The book is nonetheless grounded in real science. Kelsey notes:

I wrote this book as a celebration — one to honor the extraordinary ways in which all of us simply are nature. Every example in this book is backed by current science. Every day, for instance, you breathe in more than a million pollen grains.




Richard Feynman on the Universal Responsibility of Scientists.


“Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life,” E. B. White wrote of the role and responsibility of the writer.

In The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: The Best Short Works of Richard P. Feynman (public library) — the anthology that gave us The Great Explainer’s insights on the role of scientific culture in modern society, titled after thefamous film of the same name — Richard Feynman adds to history’s famous definitions of science and considers the responsibility of the scientist as just about the polar opposite: to be continuously informed and shaped by life, free of the despotism of opinion and the addiction to rectitude.

Speaking to the notion that “every child is a scientist,” Feynman champions the true responsibility of science education — a responsibility and purpose sadly belied by the current education system — and argues:

When we read about this in the newspaper, it says, ‘The scientist says that this discovery may have importance in the cure of cancer.’ The paper is only interested in the use of the idea, not the idea itself. Hardly anyone can understand the importance of an idea, it is so remarkable. Except that, possibly, some children catch on. And when a child catches on to an idea like that, we have a scientist. These ideas do filter down (in spite of all the conversation about TV replacing thinking), and lots of kids get the spirit — and when they have the spirit you have a scientist. It’s too late for them to get the spirit when they are in our universities, so we must attempt to explain these ideas to children.

He then moves on to the broader role of science as a cultural force. The idea thatignorance is central to science — as well as filmmedia, and design — is an enduring theme, but Feynman lives up to his reputation and articulates it more beautifully and eloquently than anyone:

The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize the ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty– some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.

Echoing Rilke’s counsel to “live the questions,” Feynman traces the roots of science to the vital anti-authoritarianism of brave minds like Galileo and reminds us:

Now, we scientists … take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure — that it is possible to live and notknow. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes that this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle. Permit us to question — to doubt, that’s all — not to be sure. And I think it is important that we do not forget the importance of this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained. Here lies a responsibility to society.

With his signature blend of graceful language and uncompromising conviction, Feynman echoes Bertrand Russell’s contention that “without science, democracy is impossible” and aims at the bullseye of the scientist’s responsibility:

We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. There are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions and pass them on. It is our responsibility to leave the men of the future a free hand. In the impetuous youth of humanity, we can make grave errors that can stunt our growth for a long time. This we will do if we say we have the answers now, so young and ignorant; if we suppress all discussion, all criticism, saying, ‘This is it, boys, man is saved!’ and thus doom man for a long time to the chains of authority, confined to the limits of our present imagination. It has been done so many times before.

It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress and great value of a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress that is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom, to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed, and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.


NASA Transfers Operational Control of Environmental Satellite.

satellite-radioThe Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite, a partnership between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was transitioned to NOAA operational organization control Feb. 22. The transition marks the next step of the mission that supports NASA’s Earth science research and NOAA’s weather forecasting missions.
Suomi NPP continues the observations of Earth from space that were pioneered by NASA’s Earth Observing System. The satellite’s five instruments are providing scientists with data to extend more than 30 key long-term datasets. These records, which include observations of the ozone layer, land cover, atmospheric temperatures and ice cover, provide critical data for global change science.

“Suomi NPP is an important asset for NASA, NOAA, and the nation,” said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “As a true collaboration in which all partners benefit, Suomi NPP measurements are supporting researchers and weather forecasters alike.”

Suomi NPP also collects critical data for our understanding of long-term climate change while increasing our ability to improve weather forecasts in the short term. NOAA meteorologists are incorporating Suomi NPP information into their weather prediction models to produce forecasts and warnings that already are helping emergency responders anticipate, monitor, and react to many types of natural events.

“Satellites like Suomi NPP are critical to the National Weather Service’s mission and improved decision support services,” said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “These polar satellites provide an important dataset for the global Earth-observing system and will lead to improved forecasts out to three days in the future and beyond.”

The Suomi NPP mission is a bridge between NASA’s legacy Earth-observing missions and NOAA’s next-generation Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Suomi NPP carries groundbreaking new Earth-observing instruments that JPSS will use operationally. The first satellite in the JPSS series, JPSS-1, is targeted for launch in early 2017.

NASA launched Suomi NPP Oct. 28, 2011, from California. Since then, the JPSS program based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt., Md., has been helping maintain the Suomi NPP instruments in addition to providing the ground system, with NOAA institutional organizations providing operational mission support. The NOAA operations group now assumes responsibility for Suomi NPP.

Suomi NPP instruments observe key attributes of the Earth, including measurements of cloud and vegetation cover, ice cover, ocean color, and sea and land surface temperatures. The suite includes the Visible/Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS); the Cross-track Infrared Sounder (CrIS); the Clouds and Earth Radiant Energy System (CERES); the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS); and the Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite (OMPS).

“Observations from Suomi NPP are helping to advance science and to increase the accuracy of short-term meteorological predictions,” said James Gleason, Suomi NPP project scientist at NASA Goddard. “ATMS data are being used by the National Weather Service in their forecast models. And OMPS data continued over 30 years of ozone hole measurements helping the community put this year’s smaller ozone hole in perspective.”

Suomi NPP observes Earth’s surface twice a day, once in daylight and once at night, flying 512 miles (824 kilometers) high in a polar orbit. The satellite sends its data once an orbit to a ground station in Svalbard, Norway. The information is transferred via fiber optic cable for processing at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md. Data products are archived at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, N.C.

Suomi NPP is named in honor of the late Verner E. Suomi, a meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin who is recognized widely as the father of satellite meteorology.

Source: NASA



Two years after the nuclear accident at Fukushima plant, the nuclear industry is accused of evading its responsibilities.

The victims of the nuclear disaster in 2011 were almost forgotten after being placed in little, so-called temporary apartments spread across Japan. TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima plant, paid “temporary compensation” to the victims, but now people have to pay back the money, the international press reports.

Yukiko Kameya, 68, is one of these victims. She used to live in the town of Futaba, close to the Fukushima nuclear plant, until the tsunami on March 11, 2011. After the nuclear accident, she was moved in a small public housing apartment in Tokyo and received initially $18,000 in compensation from TEPCO. However, she has to pay back $11,000 of the total sum.

“We were living just 1.2 kilometres from the plant, and we escaped with nothing but the clothes on our back,” she said. “We had that money deducted from our compensation. I was surprised, so I called TEPCO and said that they were using dirty tricks, that they were using fraud. Why did they give it to us to if we had to pay it back?”

Companies that were involved in designing and building the Fukushima reactors, such as General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi, are not required to pay a cent in compensation, a Greenpeace report states.

Aslihan Tumer, Greenpeace’s international nuclear project leader, says some of the companies are still profiting from the reactor.

“Nuclear suppliers are completely protected from accepting any liability or being held accountable in case of an accident,” he said.”GE designed Fukushima Mark 1 reactor, and GE, Hitachi and Toshiba built and continued servicing the reactor, and they are also still making, in some cases, money out of the cleaning efforts, as well as the contamination.”

With the operator TEPCO nationalized, the Japanese taxpayer is now paying most of the compensation bill for the disaster.

Source: Tokyo Times

Curiosity findings raises the question, was there once life on Mars?

Single Mars rock-450-80


NASA hasn’t been bashful about updating the world with the findings of the Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars.


Since Curiosity landed back in August 2012, we’ve gotten plenty of updates on the progress of the mission, whether they were worthwhileor not.


There has been little success in finding actual Martian organic material during Curiosity’s expedition, butsome of the findings seemed to show the potential for organic life on Mars did at one time exist.


On Tuesday, NASA revealed a startling new discovery, which further proved that at one time, Mars was perfectly suitable for living organisms.


The answer is yes


This latest breakthrough was found in a new rock sample collected by Curiosity, which contained several of the key elements necessary for life.


Scientists were able to find sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon in powder cultivated from sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in the Gale Crater.


“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.


“From what we know now, the answer is yes.”


The analyzed data showed the area Curiosity was currently exploring could have at one time been the end of an ancient river or a wet lake bed, both of which would have provided the proper growing environment for microbes.


“We have characterized a very ancient, but strangely new ‘gray Mars’ where conditions once were favorable for life,” said John Grotzinger, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.


Scientists plan to continue exploring the local area (known as Yellowknife Bay) with Curiosity for another few weeks before heading off to the Gale Crater’s central mound, Mount Sharp.


It’s there NASA believes it will find a more definitive answer as to the duration and diversity of the habitable conditions Mars once experienced.

Source: techradar.